What to know about flood insurance before it's too late
Op Ed By: Lynn Vigneault, CISR
Vice President, Personal Lines
With floods being the most common natural disaster across the country, it’s surprising to know that 88 percent of Americans do not have flood insurance coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
To provide our clients with the best customer service, we, as agents, need to make sure that we understand the complexity of flood maps and the changes in flood mapping that have occurred, so that our clients better understand the need for flood insurance. Which locations get them more than others? Does it happen in areas far from the coastline? Even with just one inch of flood damage, homeowners can pay over $20,000 in repairs!
First, we need to constantly research what is happening in the news, with flooding disasters happening more and more frequently. The U.S. had four hurricanes make landfall in 2017. With Hurricane Harvey alone, 70% of the damage to homes caused by flooding was not insured.
In New England, we may not see hurricanes happening as much as other areas of the country, but according to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), 20 percent of flood losses each year occur in low- or medium-risk areas. That is why it is key that we present the facts to our clients and advise that they utilize flood insurance. Every home can be at risk for flooding.
The winter weather this year is a prime example as to why flood insurance is important. New England had three nor’easters occur in the span of two weeks, causing major damage and flooding to residences and businesses throughout the region.
The NFIP is finding that the “100-year flood plan,” which was originally implemented to asses a home’s risk for flooding in the 1970s, does not accurately assess the risks of today. As a result, the NFIP announced that changes are being made to flood mapping across the country, in an effort to correct the flood zones that were not rated properly for flood risk. As a result, there are certain flood zones that are going up in risk and therefore, raising the rates of flood insurance.
While not all changes to the flood zones will take effect immediately, it is crucial that all agents take time to understand the recent changes in the flood maps and how these changes will affect clients. Particularly in homes built before 1983, homeowners are seeing the possible risk of flood damage increase as much as 24 percent.
With clients focusing on the increase in charges for insurance (as they should), it is the agent’s job to talk with them about the reasons for the changes in their flood insurance and the benefit of keeping that coverage on their plan. If possible, call your clients ahead of time so that they are prepared before they receive a bill, especially if there is a major increase in flood insurance.
As agents, we need to constantly stay on top of the flood maps and any changes occurring so that when a client calls, we know exactly how and why rates are changing.
Furthermore, now more than ever is a perfect time to talk with clients who do not currently have flood insurance, as well as clients who are looking to buy or build a home. Educate them on the risk of flooding, the changes in flood zones and the benefits of having coverage – even if they think it will not happen.
Flooding is inevitable, no matter where one lives across the country. While we cannot predict the weather, our job as agents is to make sure our clients are prepared and protected at times when natural disasters occur.
Lynn Vigneault is Vice President of Personal Lines at Paquin & Carroll Insurance; an independent insurance agency in Biddeford, ME that has been providing individuals, families and businesses trusted insurance advice for over 100 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.